Sunday, April 04, 2004
What Is So Civil About These Civilians?
Last week the media reported about the ambush and killing of four American "civilians" in Fallujah. My question gets at the nature of the word civilian. The term traditionally means non-military personnel. The implication is that the person is a non-combatant.
Apparently, the media is either accepting the Bush administration's rhetorical line that civilian means anyone who is not in uniform or incredibly unsophisticated. But, if we privatize military and security services, are these people not part of the military? They're simply better paid than the people who wear the standard G.I.'s uniform.
Would a better term not be, "mercenary?" These are former U.S. soldiers who dropped out of the military to be "consultants" to security firms (or found them themselves) and be paid big money to take on specific jobs they found more desirable. I do not object to the principle of the government paying extra for their expertise to fill in specific gaps, although I believe it undermines the regular forces because talented troops will get their training and leave for more money. Kind of like college basketball players leaving for the NBA.
What I object to is the rhetorical implication of the term "civilian" that these people were blameless in some way. Just as I would never refer to somebody who drives a truck bomb into a crowd of people as a "civilian," I cannot refer to somebody who is paid by the US military to conduct military duties as a "civilian" simply because they're Americans. I'm sorry for them and their families, but they should have read the fine fucking print of the contract when they took the big paycheck.
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